Can Chickens Eat Herbs? What Herbs Are Poisonous or Bad for Chickens?

Spices and Dried Herbs in Kitchen Shelf

Article Summary

  • Adding herbs to a chicken’s diet can offer antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and even enhance the flavor of their eggs; culinary herbs like parsley, oregano, basil, dill, mint, sage, thyme, and cilantro are safe for chickens in moderate amounts.
  • Certain herbs like aloe vera, comfrey, eucalyptus, and toxic plants like foxglove, lily of the valley, and wormwood can be harmful or even toxic to chickens.
  • Chickens should be introduced to new herbs slowly; they can consume up to 1-2 teaspoons of dried herbs per kg of feed or around 1⁄4 cup of fresh herbs daily.

Herbs can provide chickens with a nutritional boost and enhanced flavor in eggs. However, some herbs are toxic and should be avoided. This article explores what herbs are safe and beneficial for chickens and which ones to steer clear of.

Can Chickens Eat Herbs?

Yes, chickens can eat most culinary herbs in moderation. Herbs like parsley, oregano, basil, dill, mint, sage, thyme, and cilantro are safe for chickens. Start with small amounts to allow their digestive system to adjust.

Chicks and Hen Feeding Together
Chicks and Hen Feeding Together

Herbs may be fed fresh or dried. Offer chopped/crushed herbs so chickens don’t choke. Scatter herbs in their enclosure or mix herbs into feed. The antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients in herbs can benefit chicken health.

Adding herbs to a chicken’s diet can provide antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Herbs may also make eggs more flavorful. However, some herbs are poisonous or irritating to chickens. So, it’s important to know which herbs are chicken-safe.

Mint: Healthy Herb to Chickens

A Closeup View of Mint Leaves
A Closeup View of Mint Leaves

Mint is a healthy, safe herb for chickens. The Menthol provides antioxidants and antimicrobial benefits. Mint-flavored eggs are a bonus. Start with small amounts of mint, as it can initially cause loose droppings. Avoid allowing chickens to overindulge.

Thyme: A Chicken-Safe Herb

A Cluster of Thyme
A Cluster of Thyme

Thyme contains vitamins A, C, K, folate, iron, and manganese. Its antibacterial properties benefit chicken health. Thyme encourages laying and strengthening eggshells. Start with a pinch per chicken and gradually increase thyme amounts.

What Herbs Are Poisonous or Harmful to Chickens?

Some herbs are toxic or irritating and should not be fed to hens in a flock. Poisonous herbs include foxglove, lily of the valley, sweet woodruff, pennyroyal, and wormwood. Irritating herbs to avoid are aloe vera, comfrey, eucalyptus, and tea tree.

Aloe Vera and Its Toxicity to Chickens

Aloe vera is a popular plant known for its various health benefits for humans. However, it is important to note that aloe vera can be toxic to chickens.

While aloe vera gel is commonly used for its soothing properties on human skin, it contains a substance called aloin, which can be harmful to chickens if ingested in large quantities.

What herbs are poisonous to chickens? Aloe Vera contains aloin, harmful substance to chickens.
A Closeup View of Aloe Vera Leaves

Chickens are naturally curious and may peck at plants in their environment, including aloe vera. If a chicken consumes a significant amount of aloe vera gel or leaves, it can lead to digestive issues and even poisoning.

Symptoms of aloe vera toxicity in chickens may include diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and general weakness.

To prevent the risk of aloe vera toxicity, it is important to keep chickens away from areas where aloe vera plants are growing. If you have aloe vera plants in your garden or yard, make sure they are securely fenced off or placed in an area inaccessible to chickens.

Additionally, if you use aloe vera products for yourself, be cautious about disposing of any leftover gel or leaves where chickens can access them.

Bitter Orange

The leaves, twigs, and peel of bitter orange contain aromatherapeutic oils that can burn skin, eyes, and internally.

What herbs are poisonous to chickens? Bitter Orange leaves, twigs, and peel
Bitter Orange Tree

Do not feed any part of bitter oranges to chickens. Commercial bitter orange chicken feeds likely use extracted oils safe in small amounts.

The Dangers of Comfrey for Chickens

Comfrey is a popular herb known for its medicinal properties and ability to promote healing. However, when it comes to chickens, it can be dangerous and even deadly.

Comfrey contains toxic compounds called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) that can have harmful effects on the liver of chickens.

When chickens consume the herb comfrey, the PAs in the plant can accumulate in their liver over time. This can lead to liver damage and even liver failure.

Can Chickens Eat Plants Like Comfrey
Comfrey Leaves And Flowers

Symptoms of comfrey poisoning in chickens may include loss of appetite, weight loss, weakness, and jaundice. In severe cases, it can be fatal.

It’s important for chicken owners to be aware of the dangers of comfrey and take precautions to prevent their chickens from consuming this plant.

This includes ensuring that comfrey is not present in their chickens’ grazing areas or forage. If comfrey is growing in the vicinity, it should be removed or fenced off to prevent access.

Eucalyptus: A Potentially Harmful Herb for Chickens

What herbs are poisonous to chickens? Eucalyptus when inhaled or ingested by chickens in large amounts are harmful.
Eucalyptus Leaves Against The Blue Sky

Eucalyptus is a widely known herb with various medicinal properties, often used in essential oils and herbal remedies.

However, when it comes to chickens, eucalyptus can be potentially harmful. Chickens are highly sensitive to certain substances, and eucalyptus contains compounds that can be toxic to them.

Chickens are highly sensitive to certain substances, and eucalyptus contains compounds that can be toxic…

One of the main concerns with it is the eucalyptus oil, which contains a compound called eucalyptol. This compound has a strong aroma and is known for its antimicrobial properties.

While it may be beneficial for humans, it can be toxic to chickens when ingested or inhaled in large amounts. Chickens have a delicate respiratory system, and the strong scent of eucalyptus can cause irritation and respiratory distress.

In addition to respiratory issues, eucalyptus can also have negative effects on a chicken’s digestive system. The oils in eucalyptus can cause gastrointestinal upset and even lead to diarrhea in chickens. This can result in dehydration and nutrient deficiencies, which can be detrimental to their overall health.

It is important for chicken owners to be aware of the potential harm that eucalyptus can cause to their flock. If you have eucalyptus trees or plants in your yard or garden, make sure they are not accessible to your chickens.


Avoid using eucalyptus essential oils or products containing eucalyptus around your chickens. Instead, opt for chicken-friendly herbs and remedies that are safe and beneficial for their well-being.

Henbane: Understanding its Poisonous Effects on Chickens

Henbane is a highly toxic plant that can have severe effects on chickens if ingested. It belongs to the nightshade family and contains several alkaloids, including hyoscyamine and scopolamine, which are responsible for its poisonous properties.

When consumed by chickens, henbane can cause a range of symptoms, including loss of appetite, drooling, diarrhea, weakness, and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, it can even lead to paralysis and death.

One of the main concerns with henbane poisoning in chickens is that it can be easily mistaken for other plant-related illnesses. The symptoms are similar to those caused by other toxic plants, such as nightshade or jimsonweed.

Therefore, it is crucial for chicken owners to be able to identify henbane and remove it from their chickens’ environment.

What herbs are poisonous to chickens?Henbane a highly toxic plant
Henbane Flowers And Leaves

Prevention is key when it comes to henbane poisoning. Chicken owners should be vigilant in monitoring their flock’s surroundings and ensure that there are no henbane plants growing nearby.

Additionally, it is essential to provide a balanced and nutritious diet to chickens to reduce the likelihood of them seeking out potentially harmful plants.

Pennyroyal/Fleabane: Toxicity Risks for Chickens

Pennyroyal and fleabane are two common plants that can pose toxicity risks for chickens if ingested.

Pennyroyal, also known as Mentha pulegium, is a member of the mint family and is often used as an herbal remedy for various ailments.

What herbs are poisonous to chickens? Pennyroyal contains pulegone, a  toxic compound to chickens
Pennyroyal in The Wild

However, it contains a compound called pulegone, which can be toxic to chickens. Ingesting pennyroyal can lead to symptoms such as diarrhea, weakness, and even liver damage in chickens.

Fleabane, on the other hand, refers to several different plants in the Erigeron genus. These plants contain compounds called pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can be toxic to chickens when consumed in large quantities.

Symptoms of fleabane toxicity in chickens may include loss of appetite, weight loss, and even liver failure.

To prevent toxicity risks, it is important to ensure that chickens do not have access to pennyroyal or fleabane plants.

This can be done by removing these plants from the chicken’s environment or by creating physical barriers to prevent their consumption.

What herbs are poisonous to chickens? Fleabane contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, a toxic compound to chickens in large quantities.
Fleabane in Bloom

It is also crucial to provide a balanced diet for chickens and to monitor their health closely. If any signs of toxicity are observed, it is recommended to consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

How Much Herbs Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens can eat up to 1-2 teaspoons of dried herbs per kg of feed. For fresh herbs, chickens can eat around 1⁄4 cup per day in total. Introduce new herbs slowly, a pinch at a time.

Observe chickens after feeding herbs, as with any other plants to chickens, and adjust amounts based on droppings and behavior. Moderation is key.

In summary, many herbs provide health benefits but some common herbs are toxic for chickens. Research herbs before feeding and start with small amounts. Stick to culinary herbs known to be safe for chickens.

Avoid aloe vera, comfrey, eucalyptus, tea tree, foxglove, and lily of the valley due to their toxicity. Herbs can add nutrition and flavor, but moderation is vital.

Frequently Asked Questions

What herbs are harmful to chickens?

Certain herbs like foxglove, yew, and hemlock are known to be harmful to chickens. These herbs contain toxins that can cause various health issues or even death in chickens if ingested.

Will chickens eat poisonous herbs?

In some cases, yes, chickens may consume poisonous herbs, especially if they are present in their environment. While chickens have a natural instinct to forage, they may not always recognize harmful plants.

What herbs are bad for chickens?

Some herbs that are bad for chickens include foxglove, yew, and hemlock. These plants contain toxic compounds that can be harmful or fatal if consumed by chickens.

What are the symptoms of herb poisoning in chickens?

Symptoms of herb poisoning in chickens may include weakness, difficulty breathing, tremors, seizures, and even death in severe cases. Immediate veterinary attention is crucial if herb poisoning is suspected.

How to identify poisonous herbs in chickens?

To identify poisonous herbs in chickens, it’s essential to familiarize oneself with common toxic plants in the area. Consulting with local agricultural or poultry experts can also help in identifying and eliminating potentially harmful herbs from the chickens’ environment.